Usage and Grammar

Q. To avoid gender-specific language, is it acceptable to use “upperclass students” as an alternative to “upperclassmen”? I am seeing this more and more in academia, where I work. An alternative would be “upper-class students,” but that seems to refer to those from a higher social and economic class. What do you recommend?

A. Upper-level students, returning students, juniors and seniors (or sophomores, juniors, and seniors—whichever you mean), third- and fourth-years, third- and fourth-year students. There are plenty of ways around this, and all are less ambiguous than “upper-class.”